9) Tribal Sponsorship: FAST TRACK – Key Tasks

The Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee (TSGAC) is pleased to provide a user-friendly Tool Kit for Tribal Sponsorship to assist Tribal leaders and Health Staff by providing a step-by-step list of key tasks that should be considered in determining and establishing a Tribal Sponsorship program.  This information was developed by a team of Tribal health and technical experts, including representatives who have successfully implemented Tribal Sponsorship programs.  We hope that the following information and “best practices” will be helpful for Tribes/Tribal organizations to use in considering whether or not to establish a Tribal Sponsorship program.



    What is a Tribal Sponsorship program?

    The ACA provides an opportunity for any Tribe to establish a Tribally-Sponsored program to purchase health insurance coverage for their uninsured Tribal members through a Health Insurance Marketplace (“Tribal Sponsorship”).  The Indian Health Care Improvement Act specifically authorizes that Tribes may use funds made available under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) to purchase health insurance, such as coverage through a Marketplace, for Tribal members.

    What are the benefits of a Tribal Sponsorship program?

    A Tribal Sponsorship program provides for expanded access to health care for the Tribal member enrollee as well as increased resources available to the Tribal health program.  For those formerly uninsured Tribal members who now have insurance under the Marketplace, Tribes can reduce expenditures for services authorized through Purchase and Referred Care (PRC) by accessing substantial federal premium and cost-sharing assistance provided through the Marketplace.

    What should a Tribe consider before making a determination about whether to initiate a Tribal Sponsorship program?

    A Tribe should carefully study and collect information regarding their uninsured Tribal population, including:

    • Gathering data on number of uninsured Active Users;
    • Analyzing available health plan options and selecting the preferred plan(s);
    • Creating a simplified table illustrating the net premium sponsorship costs for (potentially) eligible persons. ;
    • Estimating enrollment targets and staffing levels;
    • Identifying funding requirements;
    • Identifying Policies and Procedures; and,
    • Establishing terms and conditions for Individual Enrollment Agreements and entering into Agreements with the targeted Tribal members.

    A toolkit has been prepared to assist Tribes in completing these tasks.

    Can a Tribe include specific provisions under the Individual Enrollment Agreement for the Tribal Sponsorship program that directs the Tribal member to utilize Tribal facilities?

    Yes.  A Tribe has the authority to establish policies under the Tribal Sponsorship program, such as directing Tribal Sponsorship enrollees to utilize Tribal and IHS health providers.    Requiring Tribal members who are under the Tribal Sponsorship program to utilize participating Tribal health providers and programs will not only save PRC funds, but will provide increased revenues to a Tribal health care facility and program which can then be used to expand health services.

    With legislative efforts underway to repeal the ACA and replace with new legislation, will Tribes still be able to establish and successfully implement a Tribal Sponsorship program?

    Under the House-passed legislation (as of May 4, 2017), and the Senate-drafted legislation (as of June 30, 2017), the majority of the proposed changes to the premium tax credits (which are reduced sharply) and cost-sharing protections (which are eliminated) are effective as of January 1, 2020.  As such, the premium tax credits and cost-sharing protections are scheduled to continue through the end of 2019.  This provides at least two years over which Tribes could access the substantial federal financial assistance through Tribal Sponsorship.


    1. Quantify target population: View

    Gather data on number of uninsured Active Users. One option is to request from the Indian Health Service (IHS) current data on the insurance status of Active Users, by Tribal status, if possible. A further refinement of the data would be to estimate the income distribution of uninsured Active Users by accessing statewide Census data on uninsured Americans Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) (which can be obtained through the Census Bureau DataFerrett online tool (https://dataferrett.census.gov/) and then applied to a Tribe’s (e.g., Service Unit) Active User figures).

  • 2. Select preferred plan(s) and negotiate payment mechanism:


    Analyze health plan options available on the Marketplace and select the preferred plan(s) for either bronze level or silver level coverage. In the attached sample plan review, potential elements of a plan review are shown, most of which can be researched through the Marketplace website (e.g., through healthcare.gov).  In addition, contact the health plan(s) and negotiate the preparation of an aggregate invoice (from health plan) and an aggregate payment mechanism (by Tribal Sponsor).

  • 3. Create a Premium Sponsorship Table:


    Create a simplified table illustrating the net premium sponsorship costs for (potentially) eligible persons. Base premium costs on the plans identified under “Select preferred plan(s)” that have been identified in item #2 above. Use the Premium Sponsorship Table as a tool for establishing eligibility criteria

  • 4. Establish eligibility criteria, for Phase I:


    Determine eligibility criteria for the Tribal Premium Sponsorship Program (TPSP), using the Premium Sponsorship Table as one guide. It often is useful to designate initial eligibility criteria for “Phase I” and then evaluate and adjust (and possibly expand) eligibility for the TPSP over time based on actual program results. Labeling the eligibility criteria as “Phase I” communicates that the TPSP is in its initial development and that these criteria and other program elements are open to modification over time based on actual program outcomes.

    A Sponsoring Tribe might wish to establish eligibility criteria based on factors such as:

    • Household income;
    • Fixed maximum number of Sponsored individuals under the TPSP;
    • Maximum aggregate premium sponsorship costs under the TPSP;
    • Active User status;
    • PRC eligibility (residing in CHSDA);
    • Enrolled Tribal member of Sponsoring Tribe;
    • Residing or not residing in tribal jurisdictional service area;
    • Dependents of enrolled Tribal member of Sponsoring Tribe;
    • Complexity and/or cost of medical services needed;
    • Need for PRC-funded services.

    Sponsoring Tribes will need to ensure that program eligibility and expenditures are consistent with applicable laws.

    • For Direct Service Tribes, review of general eligibility criteria with the IHS Area Office likely will be an element of the Title I contracting process.
      • Within the general eligibility criteria, the Tribe might wish to phase-in eligibility by establishing eligibility for a subset of the general eligibility criteria in Phase I, an additional subset in Phase II, etc.
    • For Self-Governance Tribes, Tribes should include in contracts, compacts, or other funding agreements with IHS a general statement that notes the intention to use some Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) or other funds available to the Tribe for Sponsorship of Tribal members.

    A second data request to the IHS might be necessary to obtain Active User data that best match the proposed eligibility criteria.

    In Attachment P: Cost-Benefit Analysis Tool (Excel), Attachment P – PDF version,  a model is presented that assists Tribes in generating an estimate of the financial impact from enrolling different groups.  The series of worksheets were developed by the Tribal Education and Outreach Consortium (TEOC), a collaboration of several Area Health Boards and individual Tribes with the aim of fostering Tribal capacity to access new health care resources for Tribal members and other IHS beneficiaries.  The worksheets include instructions on the use of the Cost-Benefit Analysis tool.

    • Conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis as provided for in this tool—or other similar tools—is not a requirement prior to initiating a TPSP.
    • A Tribe might choose to limit an analysis to a subset of potential enrollees. The Tribe might subsequently authorize enrollment of up to a set maximum number of enrollees, providing the Tribe an opportunity to limit uncertainty and risk, and to monitor actual results (i.e., actual costs versus actual net increase in health care resources).
  • 5. Estimate enrollment targets and staffing levels:


    Based on the number of uninsured Active Users and the eligibility criteria, project enrollment in the TPSP and identify staffing levels required to achieve this enrollment level. For a “Fast Track” start, set the initial enrollment target at a fixed number (such as 200) that represents no more than 10% of total eligible individuals. Based on how fast you would like to achieve this level of enrollment, set staffing level assuming enrollment staff can conduct two enrollments per day, once fully-trained.

  • 6. Identify estimated funding needs:


    Based on enrollment and staffing level projections, estimate the projected funding needed for premium payments and administrative costs.

  • 7. Identify funding source(s):


    For Self-Governance Tribes, funding may be reallocated across program line items. For Direct Service and Title I contracting Tribes, a proposal must be submitted to the IHS for the Tribe to officially establish a TPSP Program and reallocate funding from PRC and/or H&C to this new TPSP Program.

  • 8. Create an Individual Enrollment Agreement:


    Using samples from other Tribal Premium Sponsorship Programs, create a TPSP-specific Individual Enrollment Agreement that incorporates the Tribe’s policy decisions and that specifies the rights and responsibilities of TPSP enrollees and the Sponsoring Tribe.

  • 9. Diagram health plan enrollment flow:


    Create a tool for Tribal enrollment staff to ensure enrollment in the intended health plan.

  • 10. Hire and train Tribal enrollment staff:


    Access the online CMS training modules to gain understanding of Marketplace rules and processes.

    For more information, please contact: Doneg McDonough at DonegMcD@outlook.com